Client-centered are increased self-esteem and openness to experience.

Client-centered therapy is one of the major fields of humanistic psychotherapy developed by psychotherapist Carl Rogers.

Learn more about client-centered therapy, Carl Rogers, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

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Client-centered therapy, which is also known as person-centered, non-directive, or Rogerian therapy, is a counseling approach that requires the client to take an active role in his or her treatment with the therapist being nondirective and supportive. In client-centered therapy, the client determines the course and direction of treatment, while the therapist clarifies the client’s responses to promote self-understanding.The goals of client-centered therapy are increased self-esteem and openness to experience.

Client-centered therapists work to help clients lead full lives of self-understanding and reduce defensiveness, guilt, and insecurity. As well as have more positive and comfortable relationships with others, and an increased capacity to experience and express their feelings.

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers, Creator of Client-Centered Therapy
Client-Centered Therapist Carl Rogers

Client-centered therapy was developed in the 1930s by the American psychologist Carl Rogers. Rogers was a humanistic psychologist who believed that how we live in the here-and-now and our current perceptions are more important than the past. He also believed close personal relationships with a supportive environment of warmth, genuineness, and understanding, are key for therapeutic change.

Rogers used the term ‘client’ instead of ‘patient’ to refer to the equal nature of the relationship between the therapist and client in client-centered therapy. Rogers believed people are capable of self-healing and personal growth, which leads to self-actualization, an important concept in client-centered therapy. Self-actualization refers to the tendency of all human beings to move forward, grow, and reach their full potential. Rogers believed self-actualization is hindered by negative, unhealthy attitudes about the self.

Client-Centered Therapy

Client-centered therapy differs from other forms of therapy because client-centered therapy does not focus on therapeutic techniques. What’s most important in client-centered therapy is the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client. Client-centered therapy was not intended for a specific age group or subpopulation, but has been used to treat a broad range of people. It has been applied for use with people suffering from depression, anxiety, alcohol disorders, cognitive dysfunction, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.

When people enter client-centered therapy, they are in a state of incongruence, meaning there is a difference between how they see themselves and reality. Having an accurate self-concept (the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs people have about themselves) is key to client-centered therapy. For example, a person may consider himself helpful to others but often puts his own needs before the needs of others. It is the hope of client-centered therapists to help clients reach a state of congruence or a match between self-concept and reality. Which just means for people to see themselves as they actually are.

For example, if a person considers herself a good chef, she would not doubt herself when it comes to cooking meals. In client-centered therapy, the therapist does not attempt to change the client’s thinking in any way. The therapist merely facilitates self-actualization by providing a comfortable environment for clients to freely engage in focused, in-depth self-exploration.In client-centered therapy, the therapist’s attitude is more important than the therapist’s skills. According to client-centered therapy, there are three therapist attitudes that determine the level of success of therapy: (1) genuineness, (2) unconditional positive regard, and (3) empathy.


client-centered therapy genuineness

Genuineness (also known as congruence) is the most important concept in therapeutic counseling according to Rogers. Genuineness refers to the therapist’s ability to be authentic. When a therapist is genuine, she might share her emotional reactions to a clients’ problems and experiences.

Genuineness does not mean therapists disclose their problems to clients; it just means the therapist shares his or her feelings regarding the client’s experiences.

Unconditional Positive Regard

client-centered therapy unconditional positive regard

In order for you to grow and fulfill your potential in life, Rogers believed it is important for you to value yourself. One way we come to value ourselves is with the approval we receive from others. Unconditional positive regard is the second necessary therapist attitude according to Rogers. Unconditional positive regard means the therapist accepts clients for who they are without evaluation.

By promoting a relationship of acceptance, the client is able to share and express negative feelings and emotions without fear of rejection from the therapist. By showing unconditional positive regard the therapist is not saying to a client ‘I approve of your actions,’ instead the therapist is saying ‘I accept you for who you are.’ A client-centered therapist always maintains a positive attitude towards the client, even if they disagree with the client’s actions.


client-centered therapy empathy

The third necessary component of a therapist’s attitude is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand what the client is feeling in the here-and-now.

A therapist is able to show empathy by listening to what the client is saying and communicating to the client that he understands what the client is feeling. One way to show empathy is by using the therapeutic technique known as reflection, which consists of summarizing what the client has just said. Reflection shows the client the therapist is listening carefully and gives the client the chance to reflect on his own feelings and thoughts as his thoughts are repeated back to him.

Lesson Summary

Client-centered therapy, also commonly known as person-centered therapy, differs from other therapeutic forms of treatment. It is a humanistic form of treatment that focuses on developing a strong therapeutic relationship rather than specific therapeutic techniques. Therapist attitudes of genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and empathy allow clients to openly express their thoughts and feelings and reach self-actualization and understanding in their lives.


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